The shift to digital healthcare has put patients in the driver’s seat, providing them greater control and access to information. Numerous studies show that consumers want to know they are more than a medical record — they want a say in their own care. They want to interact with their children’s, their aging parents’, as well as their own doctors. For these reasons, virtual care or telehealth has seen dramatic growth. A recent Forbes article, Doctors' Virtual Consults With Patients To Double By 2020 (Aug. 9, 2015), notes that research firm IHS projects the number of virtual consults in the U.S. to grow to 26.9 million in 2020, up from 16.6 million in 2015. In an audio podcast with Iron Bow Technologies, Nancy Green, global lead of healthcare channel marketing at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, discussed how virtual care can help healthcare professionals deliver more personalized care and enable government agencies better utilize resources to improve and protect public health.
“Virtual care needs to be where ever the patient needs it — on their phone, in their hotel or in a rural area,” Green said. One of the most prevalent use cases is remote patient monitoring. Healthcare professionals in urban areas can extend their reach to rural areas where patients don’t have immediate access to physicians, specialists or local facilities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 136 million people visited an emergency room in 2011. Many of those visits could have been handled with a lower-cost virtual care consultation, enabling healthcare professionals to quickly and effectively diagnosis and treat patients. “Remote patient monitoring helps caregivers keep track of patients’ health across different illnesses to reduce readmissions and improve the treatment of chronic conditions, without the need for an in-person visit,” Green added. “It also improves care coordination. So I can send information about my health, not only to my family members, but to all of the clinicians responsible for my care.” Health IT will play an increasingly important role in connecting and streamlining the transfer of information across the healthcare ecosystem. “It’s all about making sure that you have buy-in all the way from the consumers to clinicians to the care workers, who in some cases are home nurses who work with patients in their home,” Green said. “You also want to ensure the technology and the workflow is stable so that it’s a benefit rather than a burden.”
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